Tag Archive | Jesse Moynihan

“Checkmate” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Checkmate is likely my least favorite episode of the Stakes miniseries. I don’t think the story behind it is completely awful; I actually like the Vampire King’s decision to de-vamp himself because he strictly wants to change up the status quo of the world and alter the destiny that has been predetermined for him. He even gives a neat little speech about it, which reeks of Moynihan headiness. But by God, so much of Checkmate feels like mere plodding. About 3/4ths of the episode revolves around the main characters deciding on whether or not they should stake the Vampire King, even though he is clearly surrendering himself and does not want to fight. It would be alright if this was presented as an actual thought-provoking dilemma: whether or not a person can change, or if they should even be allowed to change. But Checkmate would rather focus on the gang being as goofy and comically useless as possible.

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My criticisms and compliments towards each episode in this miniseries are becoming a bit redundant by this point, so I’ll sum up what I’ve already talked about in the past couple reviews relatively quickly and then get into the newer stuff:

Peppermint Butler continues to be the best aspect of these episodes, as his absolute adoration for the Vampire King is both kind of cute and also hilariously disturbing. I love his little back-and-forth with himself on whether or not he should actually be so excited to see a person of the Vampire King’s nature, and his absolute psychological freakout when he finally does encounter the VK is priceless. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I will never get tired of Steve Little’s up-pitched voice.

Finn and Jake continue to be useless in this episode, and this is probably the worst example thus far. Finn getting in the middle of Marceline and Vampire King’s fight was more random and goofy than anything. Because, ya know, that book that Finn mentions that he never even read must have come in handy for advice a good three years after it was demolished completely. Also, this is likely the boys at their most incompetent. I enjoyed Finn thinking that his grass thorn would activate by a simple battle cry (though, the thorn senses that he isn’t actually in any danger), but him really thinking that lightly kicking VK in the groin would hurt him and shouting “stake you!” makes him seem like he’s not even really trying. You had the past two episodes, where the threats felt legitimate and taxing on the main characters involved, and here it feels like there aren’t any stakes at all. No pun intended. In addition to that, we had the painfully unfunny “fart code” sequence which once again feels like a half-assed attempt at understanding the silliness between Finn and Jake’s relationship between each other, but fails pretty badly. Moynihan went from writing Finn at his most mature to being the writer that portrays him at his absolute most childish. And hey, since you kids at home loved the “bacon pancakes” song so much a few years back, Finn sings his own version “makin’ stake-a’s” in this episode!! Seriously, I hate any instances that feel as though the show is directly pandering to the AT audience of whom only know or care about “bacon pancakes”, the buff baby song, or Bubbline.

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Going back to my earlier complaints, I think the VK’s issue could have been way more well-represented if he wasn’t interrupted by people trying to stake him every five seconds. Nearly every attempt at humor in this episode is just the various wacky ways the characters are trying to stake the VK while he remains completely unwilling to fight. It gets old really fast and puts me in a mood where I just want everyone to shut the fuck up and to hear the guy out. He has legitimately insightful stuff to throw down, but he’s only able to get a word in after everyone around him stops trying to attack or stake him. I mean, PB’s technology was able to resist Empress from moving in the previous episode, couldn’t she have just restrained the VK and then interrogated him that way? I don’t think the characters are necessarily wrong for not trusting him, but it gets frustrating when it’s pretty obvious to the audience that he’s being truthful, while the typically rational characters that we love come off as bigger annoyances than the guy who is supposed to be the villain. And even then, VK suffers from his own quirky moments that seem completely out of place. I was really getting into his speech, and then he loses entirely me when he’s portrayed to be a complete baby who pouts in his underwear, and is left to be nothing but a comedic foil for the rest of the episode. It’s a shame, because I feel like the Vampire King ends up being my least favorite of the vampires, simply because he ends up being the most complex, yet the most shallow vamp at the same time. This episode elaborates on his desire to change the world around him and the pathway that is presented to him… but that’s kind of it. He’s supposed to be presented as this big important figure, but they kind of neglected to give me a reason to actually be interested or invested in him as a person. All of the other vamps are equipped with strong personalities and charisma, while Vampire King exhibits practically none of that in his one star episode.

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Annnd, after everything that happens with the Vampire King, we’re left with a mere transition into the next episode, as the “vamp juice” explodes into epic proportions and forms into a cloud monster seeking destruction. VK turning into a lion was… interesting, I suppose? It’s an idea that I still kind of struggle to wrap my head around completely… like, how did the vampire essence within him cause himself to mutate and become humanized so intensely? It doesn’t really make sense to me, but I usually just end up brushing it off.

But yeah, Checkmate is a pretty low point for me in this miniseries. It really emphasizes a lot of overarching issues, and introduces some new ones as well. A concept and character that should have been really interesting and significant ends up feeling like an unfunny slump. It isn’t entirely without its moments; I liked Jake’s brief exchange with Pepbut at the beginning and Marcy’s first meal in forever was a nice little bit. And, as I said, parts of Vampire King’s speech were really neat. But other than that, Checkmate is mostly just frustrating.

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Favorite line: “I am a king, not a hamster. My path runs straight into the void, on a sick, flaming chariot!”

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“Take Her Back” Review

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Original Airdate: November 18, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

The Moon is likely my second favorite of the vamps, behind Hierophant. She doesn’t benefit from a particularly strong personality, but her design, intimidating nature, and her unique abilities are really what help her to create a strong presence. And, like the other vampires, a lot of the success of Take Her Back comes from the atmosphere and tension built around her presence. It’s also the first episode of the miniseries that incorporates PB’s slow transition into regaining her kingdom back once more, which a lot of people weren’t a fan of, but I thought was quite nice. It’s cool how PB’s desire to stick by Marcy’s side and to put someone else before herself and her kingdom directly ties back into her development when it comes to being a more caring and courteous ruler overall. The only part I didn’t like about this transition was that we get to see less of the King of Ooo, though we at least get to enjoy some more of him in this episode before his time is up.

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The dream sequence in the beginning is pretty poignant and features a nice melody to carry it through. I think the dream itself pretty apparently focuses on what Marceline’s life would be like if there had been no Mushroom War and if the crown had never come into Simon and Betty’s lives. It is sad to think that this is likely Marceline’s idea of true bliss, even though she herself has never even experienced this type of reality. It’s a nice moment that highlights Marceline’s subconscious desires and what represents her concept of perfection. Of course, it’s all ruined by the burp bros: Finn & Jake. Take Her Back marks a sad transformation for Finn and Jake from two side characters who didn’t do much (aside from Jake’s role in the past episode) to actual annoyances within the Stakes miniseries. I’m not gonna pretentiously act as if fart and burp humor is the absolute worse thing to grace this Earth, because this is far from the first time Adventure Time would dabble in these types of gags. But the next three episode REALLY seem to emphasize that Finn and Jake are two goofy guys who love to fart and burp and to be as gross as possible. The way its incorporated in the story doesn’t even make sense. Finn and Jake burp on Marceline to help cure her because that’s what Joshua and Margaret would do when they were babies? But then Bubblegum tells them that their parents were just being assholes, so there you have it. Joshua and Margaret were shitty parents who enjoyed burping on their kids for their own benefit. Don’tcha just love these bits of lore into Finn and Jake’s backstory? The burps that emit from their body are especially gross as well. It’s pretty obvious to me that these are stock burp sound effects, but some of the audio clips that are used are especially off-putting and kind of disgusting.

So, that goes on for a bit, until PB mentions hubris to the clueless boys (even though Finn literally uses the word himself in The Other Tarts) as she begins to get emotional over the fact that her de-vamping machine ended up causing all sorts of nearly unfixable issues. The emotional moments in general don’t really hit home for me at all, but I was really amused by LSP berating the fuck out of Bubblegum. Something about LSP’s comedic timing in the past two episodes has been really on point, and once again, I enjoy how she actually wants to continue helping even after everyone separates. It’s nice to see her strive to be proactive for once, even if her help isn’t necessary to the grand scheme of things. I also liked Peppermint Butler’s mention of how he poisons himself on purpose for research, as he continues to be the best part of this miniseries, and only reinforces my belief by the end of this episode.

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It is funny to rewatch this episode and listen closely to PB’s words, which clearly can be interpreted as “stake her back,” and provides for a really amusing thematic gag throughout the episode. I enjoyed F&J a bit more as they embarked on their journey to stake The Moon, and it was really neat getting a closer look at her various powers. It did lead for some intrigue regarding how she would actually be defeated in the end, which seems like a relatively impossible feat. But, in Finn’s head, staking her different ways for several hours might just do the trick.

On the other side of things, the King of Ooo hanging Crunchy up on his mantle was hilarious. I love Crunchy’s blank, sad glance as he’s being restrained against his will. Not only does KOO get funnier, but also even more sadistic with each appearance. It’s also a pretty nice “fuck yeah” moment for PB as she kicks her adversary to the ground while shouting “monarchies are not democracies!” and it seems apparent that the Banana Guards have literally no idea what voting KOO into office actually meant. It was amusing how they asked her permission on whether they should arrest her or not, as it’s clear that they still obey her over anyone.

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The visual appeal of this miniseries returns once again with a gorgeous conversion from sunset into nighttime, as F&J deal with the worst possible scenario when finally realizing what PB actually meant. The chase scene is a lot of fun, and nice to see that even though Jake previously faced his fear of vamps in the past episode, he isn’t completely past his phobia of bloodsuckers. Again, The Moon proves to be frightening in just how ambiguous her motivation and nature is. The reveal of her demonic voice and detailed facial features only added to her uncanny state of being. The implication that she gathers power from the actual moon was a helpful sentiment in showing how she goes from a calm, non-active vamp to an absolute terror. Jake’s reactions were pretty hilarious as well, which can be attributed to John DiMaggio’s terrific inflections.

I thought Peppermint Butler’s method of healing Marceline was just a bit underwhelming, considering that Pepbut in general always has something really bizarre up his sleeve in terms of black magic, and we never get to see if this healing ritual even has any effect. So it kind of feels like padding more than anything, especially with moments like the Banana Guards’ back and forth about a yoga video (game). I did think that the moment between the Banana Guards and PB was sweet, coming back to the idea that they probably never realized that they would lose their mom all together to begin with.

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The Moon’s power of paralyzing her victims came off a bit odd to me, just because of the fact that Marceline herself has never possessed such a power, but I suppose it could be interpreted as a unique ability that The Moon is able to possess through lunar power. We’re then treated to another dream sequence which revolves around an older Marceline spending time with Bubblegum in the far future, as PB herself remains the same age, though Marcy is left as an old, nearly-deaf woman. This one represents her fears of eventually dying off before her friends, which she has yet to experience in her entire lifespan. Despite her desire to change, the thought of being outlived by her best friend likely never dawned on Marceline, until it was explored within her subconscious. Thus we have the first dream, which revolves around Marceline’s concept of what could have been, and then the second dream, which focuses on what could be in the future. Both dreams touch heavily on Marceline’s feelings of loss and desperation and are nice additions to her virtually empty role in the episode.

Probably the most energetic moment for myself in this episode is when Peppermint Butler gets his grand moment of victory by literally “staking her (The Moon’s) back.” Again, it’s so nice for Pepbut to possess such a major role in the story and be something more than just a subservient side character. Which is more than I could say for our boys, who ended up once again being on the back-burner. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

But in the end, Take Her Back is pretty good one. Like some of the other Stakes entries, the best aspect of this episode is its atmosphere surrounding the vamp of the week. The Moon is a really badass villain with a creepy voice, nice design, and equally threatening abilities. There’s more than a few flaws in this one that once again tie back into some of the overarching issues I have with Stakes in general, but the episode provides enough delightful energy in its frantically paced story and tense dilemma that I still leave Take Her Back feeling mostly positive regardless.

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Favorite line: “Don’t believe in yourself so much then, dum-dum!”

 

“Marceline the Vampire Queen” Review

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Original Airdate: November 16, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Stakes time, baby! Just as a heads up for y’all, I will not be analyzing the entire miniseries as a whole until I cover each individual episode of Stakes. Though they all follow a linear story, each episode of Stakes has its own identity and purpose, and I think it’s important that they’re discussed separately. Hell, that’s one of the main reason I started up this blog; I grew very sick and tired of seeing reviews that only discussed the actual quality of the miniseries as a whole without looking at what each episode (which were all worked on by different writers and storyboard artists) had to offer. So, let’s get started with Marceline the Vampire Queen!

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This one’s mostly set-up, as one would and should expect from a series of connected episodes as such. As far as set-up goes, I think it accomplishes much of what the miniseries would later expand upon, including the nature of vampirism, how it affects Marceline, and what conflicts face our main heroes as they embark on their journey. Granted, I think this one holds up a bit less on its own than when I first watched it. Considering that the terrific Everything Stays follows it, most of my positive feelings that reflected that half-hour seem to be in regards to the latter half. That’s not to say that Marceline the Vampire Queen is without its moments. There are some especially funny moments, along with a decent portion of nicely drawn and well-animated sequences. My issue with this one is that it seems a bit tonally dissonant in some areas; one of my main critiques of the miniseries as a whole is that it can try to be a bit too jokey and quirky in some areas where it isn’t really warranted. I feel as though many of these episodes are constantly trying to throw out jokes every five seconds, and it usually results in a mixed bag of really funny moments, and a handful of unfunny bits. Marceline the Vampire Queen is very much similar, in that it wants to be taken seriously, but also wants to entertain its audience, which is a trademark of Adventure Time in general. But it partially feels a bit forced in some areas, and I’ll try to explain what I mean as much as possible.

First, I do like how the beginning of this episode plays out. Marceline struggling to reach her umbrella as she seeks refuge under a shady tree is a great way of framing Marcy’s pain and struggling in her current state. I initially thought the premise of the miniseries in general was kind of weird, considering that we never really saw Marceline struggle with any in depth, personal issues regarding her curse, but I think Marceline the Vampire Queen does a pretty decent job of explaining it. I quite enjoy Marcy’s interactions with Bubblegum, and how she describes her vampirism as a constant reminder of her messed up past and how she’s unable to completely move on from it. Though her inability to expose herself to the sun is primarily what kickstarts these feelings, it’s nice that Marcy describes an underlying and deeper source to her issues that has been plaguing her for some time. After 1,000+ years of being a vampire, the stagnation weighing down Marcy’s life seems like it would surely take a toll on her mental health, considering that no matter what she has done before, she can never move on from the disability that constantly surrounds her. While it’s hard to relate to actual vampirism, it can easily be substituted for any other mental illness in the book, and how many people feel that same bit of stagnation through the threatening mindgames they face each day.

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The interactions between PB and Marcy when it comes to the operation sequence are mildly funny in how they subvert pandering to any diehard Bubbline fans, but again, I thought PB’s apathetic nature did kind of squander the importance of the procedure. Granted, I love PB’s moments of not understanding how to interact emotionally with other characters, but this is the one time I would actually like for the two gals to have an honest and direct conversation with each other. It’s funny, because Ako Castuera returned to the writing staff for this episode, and I think her method of writing for Marceline and PB suffers from the same issues that Castuera’s previous Marcy-PB centric episode, Sky Witch, had. While Castuera seems to have no problem writing for Princess Bubblegum individually, I think the way she depicts the relationship between the two girls is especially hollow to the point where it seems like PB doesn’t given a fuck about anything going on around her. I don’t think the gals need to be lovey-dovey and kiss up to each other all the time, but I feel as though such a moment deserves for something a bit more earnest and compassionate.

While I mostly like Finn and Jake’s roles in the episode, I feel like Jake suffers from being way too over-the-top in the beginning. I don’t even hate his role as bad cop, but I think it’s somewhat squandered by the fact that Jake quickly gives up this role and ends up being just as caring and supporting as Finn in the blink of an eye. Obviously he wanted to help his friend in her time of need, but I felt the shift from “let’s go arrest Marceline right this minute because she’s obviously guilty” to “let’s help out our friend Marceline because she’s having personal problems” was way too abrupt. That being said, I did like the interactions between Marceline and Finn, and how Marcy herself isn’t even sure of what may have happened to herself or others.

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There’s a big presence with side characters in this one, mainly the fat villagers and their leader Cloud Dance. Cloud Dance has a few funny lines revolving around his cows and how they were affected by the vampire bites, though I think the character in general is slightly unremarkable in his voice, personality, and design. He’s portrayed by Kyle Kinane, who I actually had never heard of prior to this episode, though is apparently a voice actor and a comedian. While I’ve never seen Kinane’s work elsewhere, Cloud Dance isn’t really provided humorous dialogue as it is, aside from the moment I mentioned earlier. His character is pretty insignificant, and one I usually tend to forget.

The following nighttime scenes are probably my favorite bits of the episode. Though I’m not really a fan of Marceline’s “arthritis dance” (any attempt to make Marceline a quirky or silly character never really comes off as convincing) the moments Finn and Jake share are both funny and somewhat tense. I love Jake’s ignorant fear of vampires coming into fruition once more, as John DiMaggio puts absolutely all of his energy into Jake’s character. The shots within the cave are eerie and off-putting in the best way possible, with tons of different grotesque and nicely detailed animals scattered throughout. It is strange to see a whole assortment of random, non-speaking animals (has there ever been a normal dog in the series before this point?) but I’m willing to forgive it because every creature depicted looks fantastic.

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The episode comes to a pretty enticing conclusion; clearly we know Marceline isn’t going to explode, but the way it’s framed, as Finn tries to literally beat the sunrise, is really cool and builds a good amount of hype for the next episode.

Marceline the Vampire Queen does everything it should to set-up for the next handful of episodes, but I think my main problem is just with the tonal shifts and dialogue. Adventure Time has always been good at balancing out drama and comedy, but I almost feel as though this one is trying to forcibly be humorous every chance it gets, even when it means getting in the way of having genuine character moments. This is actually a problem I would end up having with the miniseries and several other episodes within it as a whole, but as is, it is a decently fun start to a mostly fun miniseries.

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Favorite line: “That’s cool, you guys, but clean this mess also, you bums!”

“The Comet” Review

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Original Airdate: June 5, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Andy Ristaino & Jesse Moynihan

The Comet works as both sheer satisfaction and slight disappointment. The disappointment arises from the fact that this big, hyped-up finale doesn’t really progress the story of Adventure Time further, nor does it seem to take any risks or ensue changes regarding the status of this world. If anything, things seem to hit the reset button more than ever: Gunter is back to normal, the comet no longer poses as a threat to Ooo, Martin is out of Finn’s life for good, Finn has once more contained the grass sword embedded in his hand, and everything seems to be fully back to normal. In fact, the previous episode Hot Diggity Doom, actually comes with more lasting changes to the status quo than The Comet does. With the past three season finales that all came with with cliffhangers that seemed to change the world of Adventure Time as we all knew it, this is certainly a change of pace. On the other hand, that satisfaction comes from the combination of different themes regarding the meaning of life that were explored through Finn and many other characters throughout this season. After questioning the meaning of life countless times throughout this season, Finn now has fully grasped the essentials to a better method of living, including his faith in the world around him as a whole and his acceptance of some of the shitty that are inevitably going to surround him. And honestly, it’s all so genuinely enlightening that I don’t really mind that it doesn’t cap off in some huge cliffhanger. The Comet is a conclusion of central themes, but not a conclusion to the series. There’s plenty more episodes moving forward that aim at driving other AT plot points forward, but this one simply exists to progress not its story, but its central character into a more content way of living. Its setting is also a rather beautiful depiction of space, giving it a proper atmosphere for the heady bits of knowledge Moynihan does so well at dropping.

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Immediately, as the boys are shot into space, Finn is saved by the rarely seen thorn embedded in his palm. The thorn was a scar that was left as a reminder of all that Finn has lost: his father, his girlfriend, his previous way of life. That scar remained on Finn’s palm as a constant day-by-day notification of his impending worries that still have an effect on his life. Though, here, it’s this very scar that helps to save him from impending death. It’s very clear that, in this episode, Finn is learning that those scars are exactly what helped him into a new way of being. All of the devastating things that happened to Finn were signal from the universe that helped to teach him new methods of coping and existing, and here, it’s the exact scar that spawned Finn into a pit of depression that is saving him from certain death. I’m probably reaching, but it’s nice to see that all of these elements come back successfully to show how much Finn’s view on the things around him have changed over the course of several months. He no longer views negative aspects of his life as strictly negative, and even the shitty things that he acknowledges are shitty, he still is able to accept and understand them, but we’ll get to that more later.

The first chunk is mainly a fun and silly space adventure featuring Finn, Jake, and Slinkma- er, Orgalorg… and it’s relatively enjoyable to say the least. Think it goes without saying for myself that Orgalorg hasn’t grown on me at all – he’s still a pretty lame villain with little motivation and lacking a personality that actually makes him unique or interesting outside of the fact that he’s connected to Gunter. Otherwise, I care little for his plan, his character, or his design. The way Finn and Jake comedically work off of him is nice, however. This is Andy Ristaino’s last board in the series, and it’s nice to see that he did incorporate some of his trademark humor into his final episode. I personally think Cole Sanchez and Ristaino made for the best comedy duo in the series, and while this one mainly doesn’t go for straightforward comedy, it still is packed with silly moments. Though Orgalorg is primarily an antagonist, he provides a bit of wisdom about the universe’s presentation of open doors that Finn can get behind. But, the ideas presented by Orgalorg are similarly dissonant to Finn’s own desires. Orgalorg uses the opportunities given to him to destroy and harm the life around him, while Finn uses said “open doors” to preserve life and to help others. Of course, this is nothing new in Finn’s development. Despite his maturity, he’s still willing to kick butt for the common good, even if that means foolishly threatening a space deity.

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Of course, it’s to no avail at first. Finn and Jake are separated, as Finn realizes the hard truth that Jake could possibly live out his worrisome croak dream. Finn also laments that it’s quite possible that he himself will croak, “like a fish in the hands of a small child.” It’s here where Finn’s patience in the world that surrounds him is tested. Finn has no other choice but to sit back and sing an auto-tune filled song about his acceptance of his current state. Finn puts all of his faith in the universe, knowing that things will work out and that the world has his back, even if that faith isn’t based behind any logic. Finn simply trusts in the concept that everything around him is happening for a reason, and though he can’t truly explain or understand that reason, he knows that it’s for the best. And it undoubtedly comes as a surprise when Martin is the one who ends up saving him.

It can clearly be seen as an utter coincidence that Martin and Finn ended up at the same place at the same time, which can reflect Martin’s view more than his son, but Finn humbly and unabashedly thanks the universe for such an action, knowing that fate must have stepped in and brought the father and son duo back together. The interactions between Martin and Finn make for probably my favorites exchanges between the two thus far. I like how it brings out even more differences and disagreements the two seem to share, that being their view on life. Martin sees everything as meaningless and without purpose; Martin doesn’t believe in outside forces or people that have a control on his life or the things around him because he only ever believes in himself and what he’s able to accomplish. Martin sees the world as a fun place to exist in because he believes that everything lacks a purpose, and so it doesn’t matter what one does or chooses to do because it inevitably doesn’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things. Finn is the perfect contrast to his father, as Finn is one to see purpose in life in even the simplistic of things. Which makes for the brilliant response, “I dunno, there are some stars and stuff,” as Martin describes space as completely empty. Throughout the season, we’ve seen Jake’s tail charm a load of circus carnies, a baby worm save an entire village of leaf people, a group of wizards find meaning in the power of inclusivity, Peppermint Butler show loyalty beyond his orders to help the common good, Sweet P. using kindness and humor rather than the darkness that lies inside of him, Susan Strong saving a baby from becoming a cult leader, and so on. All of these little events that seem totally inconsequential, but ultimately are small events that had a purpose in one way or another to benefit the good of the world. Even when Finn isn’t paying attention, all sorts of meaningful, positive events are occurring in radical bouts, no matter how much they actually impact things on a universal level.

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When faced with the adversity of Orgalorg right in front of them, Martin once again reminds Finn, “it’s out of our hands now,” which is yet another cowardly excuse to take the bystander approach and to convince Finn that his actions are generally meaningless. But Finn isn’t one to stand by and to allow things to go to shit, and he curses his father with “skronk that!” as he selflessly propels himself forward into the belly of Orgalorg. While Finn is torn at by the vessels of Orgalorg, his grass sword finally fully unveils itself, revealing that it never truly left Finn’s body, and he’s ultimately able to control it in order to help him beat Orgalorg. Touching on my statement earlier, this is Finn finally gaining control over his life. Though the grass sword would later become an issue that Finn was unable to fully have a handle on, as life does fluctuate, Finn has one true moment of authority over his own being, and uses all that he has learned about himself and the power within him to power through Orgalorg’s body.

It’s here where the Catalyst Comet reveals itself, as we’re treated to a heady conversation that only the likes of Moynihan could whip up. We travel through Finn’s vault and once again are reintroduced to Finn’s past lives, as he begins to touch on the unexplainable and the absurd, as which is presented to him when the comet invites him on an entirely new path of existence, to continue such random absurdity that began his existence. I won’t call out everything that the Comet lists off, but I just wanna say how happy I am that the comet labeled Margaret and Joshua as “mothers” and “fathers” while Martin holds the unflattering title of “scoundrels.” Joshua was more of a father to Finn than Martin will ever be, and such a title doesn’t represent Martin in the slightest. Though, Finn quickly grows tired of these listings and realizes that nothing on the list is inherently a bad thing. Again, most of them are just random and absurd occurences of existing that are inevitable. Though, as the comet reassures him that the things he would abandon are not bad in the slightest, Finn remarks that he’d like to see the meat reality that he put so much into through. It’s a huge moment for Finn, who is essentially left with the decision to erase himself from existence for the promise of eternal bliss, or to continue to live a life that is understandably full of constant struggling. Once again, Finn has chosen to put his faith in the universe and the support groups around him to see his life through, even with the chance that not everything is going to end up okay. That work he put into getting through his own life crisis is certainly worth something, and all of the effort he put into helping others around him in general is enough to give him a reason to see such things through. And if that wasn’t a significant enough development for the little guy, he finally comes to accept that Martin is nothing but a scummy, selfish dude who cannot be changed simply by Finn’s persistence. This is the last we saw of Martin’s (current) self in the series, and although I do wish we got to see more of what his decision entails, it feels like a fitting conclusion to his character that he would once again unwittingly jump aboard the next opportunity that presents itself to him. Though Finn’s disappointment is likely masked with him simply laughing it off, it does show how far he’s come from wanting to literally rip his father’s arm off. Finn is choosing to accept the shittiness of his father as it is, knowing that there’s nothing he could do or could have done to change it. Finn is no longer stuck in the past, but rather focused on the present and the future, knowing that he has plenty of other people around him that do love and care for him.

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And speaking of loving and caring people, Jake ends up being saved by Banana Man! Jake’s croak dream turns out to actually be a survival dream, entailing Banana Man saving Jake in space, rather than watching him die. Jake remarks, “pretty random, right?” Though, in the face of what’s possible and realistic within life, it’s often hard to decipher what exactly is or is not on purpose, which is something The Comet tackles head on. Finn contemplated about “bananas, man” earlier, which may contribute to his belief that he had a part in Jake’s saving, and while it’s unlikely, it is hard to argue with how many seemingly “random” things do occur in the episode that are undefined by nature.

That question also arises when Peppermint Butler and Bubblegum debate Finn and Jake’s safety, in a really nice exchange. PB’s statement that everything in life is a 50/50 chance, too, sums up quite nicely what The Comet is all about: certainty and uncertainty. Though nothing can be known in life, there’s a chance everything will end up alright, and a chance that nothing will. But there’s also the similar possibility that both realities will either fall apart or turn around in the end, leading to an endless strain of 50/50 chances. Though, for the time being, everything does end up alright, with Finn, Jake, Banana Man, and Gunter back on Earth once more. A struggling fish in the hands of a small child(?) does remark, “I’m gonna croak out here.” While it seems likely for the poor fish, it’s also quite possible that Pepbut will simply throw him back into Butterscotch Lake to swim on happily once more. The episode leaves us with one final reminder that there are a limitless amount of opportunities within the world for happiness, sadness, survival, death, wellbeing, sickness, and may other contradicting statuses, but having faith in the world around you and powering through is what helps to get one through any state of uncontrollable being. It’s a meat reality, but one that does exist with the purpose and meaning that anyone is able to create.

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The Comet is a terrific cap to some really nice ideologies that made this season so ambitious and enjoyable. After going through episodes that seemed to question whether or not there was truly meaning to the world, this episode is a positive reinforcement to showcase a message that’s affirming and enlightening. It also successfully makes a breakthrough in Finn’s growth, as he finally begins to accept his life as it is. Though this certainly wouldn’t be the end to Finn’s troubles and sorrows, it does help Finn look onto the world with fresh eyes and feelings, knowing that he’ll be able to get through anything life throws at him, no matter how harsh or stressful.

And that’s the end of season six, folks! Thank you all for joining me during this beast of a season. Your comments over on the reddit are really what keep this project interesting for me, and I enjoy every second of discussing this series as it continues to get more thought-provoking than before. The remainder of this week will be dedicated to reviewing season six as a whole, followed by a review of Graybles Allsorts, and then I will begin reviewing season seven by next week. As always, I’m so very excited to keep diving into these reviews, so stay tuned! There are some truly remarkable episodes on the horizon.

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Favorite line: “I don’t have a star to revolve around to track time.”

“You Forgot Your Floaties” Review

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Original Airdate: June 1, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan

With all that I ended up writing about Breezy, you’d likely assume that it was my favorite episode of season six. It comes close, but such an achievement would not be accomplished until You Forgot Your Floaties came along. This is an absolute favorite of mine, and I don’t just mean top 10 or 20 – this is top 3 material right here. Jesse Moynihan goes outright ballistic with how much emphasis he puts on ambiguity, to the point where it feels as though nothing is completely spelled out for the benefit of the audience. I wouldn’t say it’s left to the viewer’s interpretation as much as The Mountain; most of You Forgot Your Floaties is interpreted with a common consensus among fans. It’s scattered with riddle-like speak, but nothing that feels nearly impossible to decode or to be understood. But it’s not just the deeper layers that help this one to really stick out, it’s a passion story about a character of whom is known no better than by Moynihan himself. Magic Man’s backstory was previously elaborated on in Sons of Mars, and the hints of tragedy regarding his character come full circle in this one, as he finally confronts the madness and sadness within himself. Betty also gets some much needed screentime after her previously physical debut in Betty, and is cleverly used in comparison to Magic Man himself as an unfortunate soul who painfully lost her significant other. It doesn’t sound like a typical episode of a children’s animated show, or even most adult animated shows for that matter. You Forgot Your Floaties is an unbelievably impressive tale focusing on the hidden depth behind the true nature of magic within the world of Adventure Time, and stands out as one of the most unique episodes of television that I’ve ever witnessed.

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In typical Moynihan form, this episode doesn’t waste much time throwing us directly into the action, as Finn and Jake search thoroughly for the remnants of Glob’s helmet after his “death” in Astral Plane. This episode doesn’t feature much of Finn and Jake, but it’s fun to have this little opening regardless. As always, the boys are tons of fun, and their dialogue exchanges are as delightfully quirky as ever. I think I quote “I have a weird feeling in my fat basket” at least once a week. It’s also cool to see their general interest in retrieving remnants of Glob’s being; though Finn humorously implies that the two are scavengers, I get the feeling that part of him also desires to keep Glob’s head as a choice souvenir, as it seems like just the bit of treasure that Finn would want to proudly protect within the comforts of the Tree Fort.

But, as Finn and Jake are quickly turned into breakfast foods at the episode’s beginning, we’re introduced to our main characters within this episode: Magic Man and Betty. The  episode also wastes no time by showing Magic Man at his absolute most sadistic and cruel. I mean, he’s done shit like this to Finn and Jake before, but here, he practically kills Finn and Jake and leaves them to rot as food products while he leaves Earth for eternity. It also ties into what’s quite frankly amazing about Magic Man as a character: despite what a sadist he truly is, it’s still easy to feel empathy for him in his more vulnerable moments. There’s something irresistibly tragic to me about jerks who were once caring, passionate souls, but were hardened by the circumstances of their life and no longer could bring themselves to show any form of affection whatsoever. It’s the Joker archetype of character building that sort of reigns similar to Ice King’s tragic history, though not exactly in the same realm of tragedy. Magic Man is consciously aware of his loss, and chose a path of madness and sadness during his inability to cope with said loss in his life. Though, that latter part is certainly up for debate. Just how much are sadness and madness directly caused by magic?

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Betty brings up M.M.S. – or Magic, Madness and Sadness – which she directly correlates to the nature of being a magic user in general. It brings up a unique argument about the nature of how magic users operate when it comes to their own emotional states. We’ve seen magic users who do seem relatively competent and happy-go-lucky demeanor, but mainly on the surface. Ron James is even used as an example of sadness, of which we’ve never even known about his character in the past. Yet, I don’t necessarily think that magic, madness, and sadness are inherently linked in one defining path… I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Magic is something that can be used for the greater good, and as of this episode, we’ve seen two examples of how having such mystical powers can affect somebody inadvertently: Evergreen went mad trying to keep himself safe and preserve the world, while Magic Man went both mad and incredibly sad while trying to perfect his magic in order to bring back his late wife. So no, I don’t think magic users are intrinsically sad by just simply possessing magic abilities, but also that having such power can often lead to thoughts and desires that could be considered unorthodox by any “normies”, ex. “How can I save myself from certain disasters with magic?” “How can I save the people I love with such abilities?”

Betty seems to have the upperhand by understanding just how much magic affects other people, but simply knowing her facts doesn’t protect her from the inevitability of falling into the same steps as her acquaintance. The connection between Betty and Magic Man is quite interesting and unique. I get the feeling that Betty knows just how untrustworthy Magic Man is, but needs to be around him in order to get some kind of breakthrough in her studies regarding how to reverse Simon’s behavioral antics. Betty knows exactly how sad and mad Magic Man is, and wants to discover what kind of raw energy and history surrounds him so that she can discover the true cause of M.M.S. and how it connects to magic as a whole. Of course, this conversation leads to a lot of different neat Moynihanian metaphors that only someone as bizarre as him could come up with, namely regarding the coconut crab who swims within Betty’s neighbor’s pool. It’s such a weird and unusual analogy to capture the idea of people metaphorically failing to stay afloat as they try and manage to survive through the sadness and madness surrounding themselves.

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Magic Man’s continuous inference that his past and mind is essentially a waste basket (which is referenced again later on) connects to the fact that Margles is gone and erased from history, and that any past he had with her must be erased from viewing eye as well. His line, “you imagined the lock before the key,” references the ideology that there’s nothing to see within Magic Man as it is. With his suppression and his madness, it’s easy for Magic Man to get lost within his own psychosis and to create his own false sense of being, though Betty smartly brings the actual key, which is the one remaining token to Magic Man’s past: the picture of MM and Margles.

It’s also worth noting how funny this episode manages to be even amongst all of this heady drama. Tiny Manticore makes interlaced appearances throughout Betty and Magic Man’s interactions, and he’s simply hilarious. For a character who only had a couple of minutes of screentime in Sons of Mars, he actually manages to be a pretty fun and likable character through competent voice acting by Tom Kenny, per usual, and his absolute desire to be a hero, despite his unfortunate role of being stuck with Stockholm Syndrome.

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A pretty rad poem read off by Magic Man is what transitions into Betty entering the mind of her manic partner,

“Smooth and gray as far as you can see. No life grows in me. Nothing to weed. Nothing to seed. Pure and perfect. Like the marble floors of a bank.You slide with no obstacles, forever blank.”

Again, Magic Man once more tries to mask his sadness by offering a blank perspective of his true state of being. It’s appropriate then, that a literal “mask” is the key to figuring out the truth behind Magic Man’s life history, as the picture leads Betty past the smooth and gray marble floors and into the eyes of Margles. The following scenes are pretty fucking amazing all-around, and played as seriously and dramatically as possible. Again, Kenny’s voice acting is absolutely superb in capturing the more subdued and quiet side of Magic Man, as he slowly utters, “Margles? Wake up, Margles.” Even with a voice that’s designed to sound manipulative and snarky, Kenny is able to breathe a surge of humanity into such an apathetic character. It’s even more interesting that this story takes the relationship between Margles and Magic Man to an entire new level and defied expectations almost completely. This is a lot more interesting than the implication in Sons of Mars that Margles just simply fell off Olympus Mons and died, and it’s further elaborated on by showing that said Margles isn’t even really Margles. M.A.R.G.L.E.S., or magical automated resistance generating laser energy supplier, was created to protect against the second coming of GOLB, but it’s very clear that this is where Magic Man’s madness and sadness came into play. The second coming of GOLB was likely a heavily anticipated event that Magic Man was forced to be prepared for, though he was unable to leave the hardship of his deceased wife out of it. He was left with the hardship of choosing between creating a being that would protect the greater good, versus a being that he loved deeply and wanted nothing more than to be with forever. He settled for both, but ultimately still suffered because of his inability to cope with said feelings. Yet, his magic created a visual appearance of Margles, but not a reincarnation of Magic Man’s past wife.

Magic Man’s proclamation of his sadness on Olympus Mons really sums up the nature of just how powerful his feelings of sadness and loss are. Adventure Time always hits it out of the park whenever it deals with sadness, and this is no exception. Using a fantasy world emphasizes exactly how desperate one can become when dealing with such sadness and loss within one’s life. Magic Man detailing: “every dimension, every dead world” as a means of how far he went just for the possibility of bringing his wife really adds depth and meaning to just how much Magic Man adored Margles. For a relationship that was barely ever elaborated on before, You Forgot Your Floaties manages to encapsulate the true extent to how much Magic Man loved Margles, and the true impact that her death left on him. Going back to the waste basket comment, the extent of Magic Man’s madness is shown through Prismo’s timeroom, when he wish for Margles only ends up appearing as the wastebasket that Magic Man previously mentioned to be what existed in his mind: nothingness. The Margles that Magic Man created, in turn, was not the Margles he was expecting to see. After hundreds of years without seeing Margles, even Magic Man himself cannot truly recreate the past that he once lived. The new Margles was exactly what Magic Man stated to be: a product of his nightmares. A Margles who was created for one function, but was deeply conflicted with another. I always figured the events on Olympus Mons were traumatizing for Magic Man, but my God, the way it’s presented in the episode really makes it as maddening as possible. After hundreds upon hundreds of years for searching for his wife, Magic Man finally is faced with the opportunity to see his wife again, though it all proves to be a complete failure. After dedicating his life to such work, it’s no wonder Magic Man gave up on his life almost completely. With all that he strived to do for his own good and the good of his wife, it simply ended up as an utter disaster. Which is where Betty comes back into the story…

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After making countless attempts to save her fiance from the magic that possesses him, Betty is left with the magic, madness, and sadness that took control of Magic Man after the transmutator malfunctioned. Betty took her own dive in the pool of madness and sadness after trying to figure out how exactly magic makes other wizards and beings tick, though she ultimately took a dive too deep and was unable to resurface from it. As a resurfacing Simon silently mutters, “you forgot your floaties,” Betty finally realizes how far she’s submerged herself within the loomy gloom. She’s effectively surrounded herself with exactly what she was trying to fix, and follows in Magic Man’s steps of being completely stuck in her own purgatory of sadness at the hands of their loved ones. Without even realizing it at first, this episode really manages to parallel Betty and Magic Man to a tee, and feels like one of the most unique and ambitious character studies to date. It analyzes entirely how one character feels (Magic Man) but also shows how much it applies to Betty’s character as well. It really is an act of brilliance in just how much we learn about these two characters in the course of eleven minutes, with a heavy emphasis on the emotion that Adventure Time tends to capture better than any other: sadness. Of course, there’s the lovely and delightful ending that features the ultimate moment of triumph: Tiny Manticore flying Bread Boy Finn to Wizard City in order to save his humanity. A truly brave soul he is.

This one is truly amazing on all levels: the way it delves into its main characters, its beautiful setting (always love to see Mars), the unique dialogue, its presentation of sadness and madness, worldbuilding, lore, and much, much more. This is one that only seems to get better every time I watch it, and once again brings me back to my main point: this episode is about as unique as they get. Never in my life have I seen a story told this different in its connection to themes, story, and characters, and it’s one that continues to shock me in just how devoted it is to tell a compelling story, rather than to comply with what actually works with the common everyday television audience. As much flack as Moynihan gets, he really is a dude that’s dedicated to telling some of the most bizarrely ambitious stories that television has ever seen. And, as You Forgot Your Floaties proves, television could benefit from having more stories this ambitious and remarkable.

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Favorite line: “Balls, man, that has never happened before!”

“Jermaine” Review

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Original Airdate: April 23, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Brandon Graham & Jesse Moynihan

Connecting the dots to every tiny piece of established information in the Adventure Time world was probably the most difficult aspect for the writing team in the long haul. What I mean by this is that the series initially started out as a crazy and silly fantasy world with little restrictions as to what could be done in said world. Years later, those restrictions have mostly stayed the same, though to make the Land of Ooo feel more real and authentic, the series has taken a stance to be strong in its continuity so that those wackier early seasons could essentially be retconned as worldbuilding. Finn and Jake’s estranged brother Jermaine was included in the episode Crystals Have Power as a mere gag character; even Jesse Moynihan, who established Jermaine’s existence in this world, didn’t really think twice about what that creation meant and how it would affect the story down the line. And it didn’t for a while, as Crystals Have Power aired five whole seasons ago, and outside a brief mention in The Pit and cameos in Memory of a Memory, Jake the Dad, and Joshua & Margaret Investigations, the character has never had a proper chance to shine, and the writing staff, up until this point, had failed to find a rational way to include him in the story. Jermaine finally brings its title character to centerstage, and is a turmoil-fueled expedition that capitalizes on an interesting relationship between siblings that we really haven’t seen in the series thus far.

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The beginning starts off fantastically, courtesy of some great visual gags from guest storyboard artist Brandon Graham. This is Graham’s only episode in the series, but man, do his drawings stick out in a really fun way. The dream bit where Jake slides on Lady Rainicorn’s body is such a fun, bouncy sequence that features some stellar animation as well. The reveal sequence with Jermaine is plenty foreboding, and gives us a good idea of who Jermaine is as a character. The series ditched the Jermaine we saw back in Crystals Have Power: he no longer has missing teeth, prominent lips, and a deepened John DiMaggio voice. He keeps the unibrow, but is voiced instead by Tom Scharpling, who is quite obviously the voice of Greg Universe from Steven Universe. I can’t help but feel this bit of discontinuity is slightly distracting… I guess you could maybe argue that the dream sequence distorted Jermaine’s appearance like the nightmares in King Worm did, but I like this version of Jermaine better so I can’t really complain about the change on an entertainment level. His anxious state is well-defined by his almost compulsive recitation of “epsilon, eucrates…” that helps him stay calm, as well as concentrated. I also like that Jake and Jermaine are somehow always connected by their dreams, for completely unexplained reasons. It’s a bit of subtle character lore that has no role in the grand scheme of things, but is an interesting way to bring the two brothers together, considering their distant behavior elsewhere. Also, I think Graham may be the only storyboard artist who loves drawing Jake with toes more than Ako Castuera.

Jake’s stress and worry regarding his brother is also well-explored. One of the key components of Jake’s development throughout the series is that he’s aging at an unknown and incomprehensible pace, and that often leads to concerns on whether he’s being a good father, brother, caregiver and so on. Not only does Jake have kids of his own now that he wants to stay together as a close knit group, but he likely worries about Jermaine’s mental and physical health, and if something were to happen to Jermaine, Jake would probably feel responsible for not attempting to reach out sooner. This beginning scene is loaded with details as well: there’s that awesome coffee cup with a face, a living head within F&J’s cooler, BMO’s little karate practice, and Finn tinkering with who knows what. There’s so much going on in one brief scene, but it’s all jam-packed in a way that there’s always something really unique to look at. Guest storyboard artists oftentimes can be the most creative on a visual level, because it’s their one opportunity to get to work with such a creative and unique property, and Graham takes every opportunity he can get. My all-time favorite moment of his from this episode is the scene where Finn and Jake leave for Jermaine’s, as Jake’s stretchy legs propel the two forward, and we see a slow pan of Ooo’s descent from daytime into night. It’s only a couple of seconds and isn’t really significant to the story in any way, but it’s big on energy, beautiful, and competently drawn/animated. Always pretty awesome how successful Adventure Time can be in its simpler moments.

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The demons all have relatively neat and creative designs despite the fact that they’re mostly limited to be translucent silhouettes. It is a bit weird to have demons like Kee-Oth and Bryce who are very detailed and unique in their designs, and then to have a bunch of nameless demons that seem to all seem to share similar attributes exist as the same species. I mean, maybe there are different types of demons based on origin or landscape? Or maybe it was because said demons were surrounded by darkness? I dunno, it didn’t really bother me because I did like the designs of these background demons and the way they moved, so it was pretty easy to glance over the possible inconsistency.

Jermaine proves to be a really sympathetic and likable character in a very short amount of time, and I think his anxieties and stressors are elaborated on in all of the right ways. He isn’t just a stick in the mud for the sake of being a stick in the mud, he was practically forced to be responsible against his own will for the sake of his father, and isn’t able to enjoy the pleasures of life because this responsibility demands his full attention 24/7. Jermaine could simply give up his job whenever he likes, but the one thing keeping him there is likely the burdening guilt that he would feel for his dad. It could be implied that Joshua’s dying wish for Jermaine was to protect all of his belongings, and so choosing a life of splendor and enjoyment would surely feel like a betrayal to Jermaine, who simply wants to obey his father’s desires. This also paints more of a grim picture about the kind of person Joshua was. Again, I’m still in the stance that Joshua was a solid father, but I think his moral ethics and treatment of others certainly come into question. Once again, the demons seem to be somewhat of victims here, as Joshua likely stole from them either for sport or for kicks, even though a majority of these items seem to be of little value or importance, at least from an audience perspective. Second, I think Joshua’s decision to ask Jermaine to watch over the house doesn’t come from the direct reason that Joshua favored Jake, (though, I think that’s an entirely plausible thought; Joshua did give birth to Jake, after all) but rather that Joshua saw him as the most responsible member of the family that would reasonably be able to carry on his legacy with little issues. It was still entirely selfish for Joshua to ask Jermaine to practically give up his life over material possessions, though as much as we’ve seen of this awesome crib throughout the past few seasons, it kind of makes sense. Joshua and Margaret’s house is AWESOME, and filled with many different treasures aside from just demon cups and posters. Their loot collection nearly doubles as a museum of different artifacts and delights, and shows just how much Joshua was able to achieve in terms of loot throughout his lifespan. Of course, this is Joshua’s legacy, though. Joshua was not considering the thoughts and values of his son when he asked him to take on said responsibility, and it’s not fair for Jermaine to sacrifice his own wellbeing for Joshua’s belongings.

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The episode nearly excels at making Jermaine too likable to possibly the fault of its own, as Finn and Jake can come off as almost distractingly pesky. I wouldn’t say the brothers are completely flanderized or anything like that, but it is frustrating to see F&J cause consistent problems in Jermaine’s state of being when he just simply wants to be left alone. Granted, Jermaine needed that extra boost of frustration and anger to help him realize the true issue at hand, but I wish the brothers were a little more conscientious in regard to his well being. I mean, how did Jake NOT know that the salt trail outside was protecting the house from demons? Granted, the two bros still get their moments of likability. Finn going absolutely berserk after being in his house for the first time in years was just delightful, and I do like how the bros are completely on Jermaine’s side throughout the entirety of the episode, even when it means going against their dad’s wishes.

Their support is futile, however, as Jermaine finally blows up and lashes out at his two brothers, but with most of his anger aimed towards Jake. And this built up anger is completely understandable as Jermaine’s absolute jealousy towards Finn and Jake’s way of life. How could he not be filled with envy? Jermaine is stuck in a position that he mentally has no way out of, where he has absolutely no way of growing personally or enjoying life as it was intended, while Finn and Jake get to live in utter luxury for doing what they love and never have to worry about money, responsibility, or fulfilling their own desires. While I thought Kim Kil Whan was too harsh in his approach to showing Finn and Jake that they’re privileged beings, I think Jermaine’s blow up is completely sympathetic and rational, and his level of inferiority is certainly felt. Joshua likely enjoyed hanging out with Jake more, because of Jake’s desires to be adventurous and to fight bad guys, while Jermaine was always the smart and rational one. Joshua presumably loved Jermaine as much as he loved his other children, but saw different things in him that required attention to different responsibilities, while Jake was the one that Joshua could have fun with and relate to the most. However, Jermaine’s argument is based on his surface level understanding of Finn and Jake’s style of life. I don’t know if anyone else caught this, but that brief shot of Finn’s distressed face as Jermaine utters, “you can go off and find your own fancy ways!” kind of made me think that Jermaine has no idea that his brother went through severe depression and emotional issues in the past few months. Finn and Jake may have luxury at their fingertips, but they’re certainly not immune to the struggles and trials that life has to offer regardless, though Jermaine fails to see that because of how long they’ve been apart for.

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The fight is certainly entertaining, with more fun little details, like the flying shoe and the “jazz-bazz” dragon, and the words exchanged between Jermaine and Jake are certainly dramatic. I think it might be executed a little too silly in hindsight… I mean, it’s essentially ended by Jake repeatedly passing gas. But, I think it’s well-timed, as Jermaine begins to realize towards the end of their brawl that fighting Jake isn’t going to accomplish anything. As Jake reminds him, “you could’ve left at any time,” leaving Jermaine to recognize that his grief is likely with his father, and his own decision to not move on from said guilt. I even kind of think that Jake’s goofy response may have tied into his youthful fart jokes that he was describing, and the fake fart he released as Jermaine hit him may have been a method Jake used as a child to cheer Jermaine up. I do wish Jake was a tad more serious during this scene, as he responds a little too casually to the whole ordeal, but it also reinforces how Jake deals with these types of situations to begin with. He isn’t a fighter, and would much rather solve his issues with jokes and joy rather than with fists. And, after Jermaine does release all of his negative energy, he’s able to tearfully let his parents’ house burn down, knowing that a whole new life exists for him beyond the materialistic nature of Joshua’s possessions. He’s off to a great start, as he and his newly-found demon buddy Bryce walk into the horizon. Bryce is cleverly voiced by Jon Wurster, who is Tom Scharpling’s co-host in their podcast series The Best Show. Steven Universe beat this team-up by only two weeks in Story for Steven!

So yeah, I think Jermaine is another really great family drama based episode for the series. F&J can get a bit bothersome at moments, and the episode can also be a little too goofy when it isn’t warranted, but I think everything else is shed in really great light. I never imagined Jermaine would end up being this interesting of a character, but Graham and Moynihan worked with his personality really well. Jermaine works off of jealousy, inferiority, depression, and guilt in an exceedingly impressive way, and is supported by great animation, characters, and a really neat setting. While I’m writing this, I’m gonna put this theory to bed right now while I have the chance: I don’t think Martin was supposed to be in that picture on Joshua and Margaret’s wall. The storyboard clearly suggests that it was just intended to be two random sticks figures within a picture, and while it may have been implied at the time that this would be a picture of Martin and Finn’s mother, how would Joshua and Margaret even acquire this? Wouldn’t Finn pass by the picture and think, “hey, why are there two humans in a portrait on our wall? Are they my real family, or something?” It just doesn’t make much sense, and I think it was merely either an animation misinterpretation, or it was included to be up for debate, but I’m willing to say that there’s nothing of substance to come out of this little detail, and I think it’s better left ignoring.

Jermaine also has a special outro, with the Booboo Sousa song replacing The Island Song. The Booboo Sousa song was co-written by Jesse and his brother Justin.

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Favorite line: “Give me my cup, or I’ll skull-cup you!”

“The Mountain” Review

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Original Airdate: February 12, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Jesse Moynihan

The Mountain is possibly Adventure Time’s most ambiguous episode to date, and it’s definitely difficult to understand. I wasn’t really excited for more Lemongrab when the premise for this one was released; I had kind of thought Lemongrab’s arc was finished by the time Lemonhope aired, and didn’t really want the character to be milked any further if there wasn’t a legitimate new direction to take him in. And apparently, Jesse Moynihan thought so too. On his blog, he detailed how he thought of the story for this one right as he was falling asleep, and he actually have a great sum-up on emotionally ambiguity in television in general. I’ll leave some of it below for reference:

“In my mind, the thing I really wanted to get away from, was the complete narrative handholding that embodies not only kids television, but almost all television: The ideology that demands we understand at all times what the character feels, what the conflict is, how exactly the audience should feel, and maybe the moral message. Even on shows I really dig like Game of Thrones, or True Detective, there’s very little ambiguity when it comes to how the audience is being manipulated to feel. Often times, in lesser TV shows, the writing acts as a rote, step by step instructional guide for how we should emotionally proceed as an audience. What’s funny is how well it works, despite its fake hackiness. Someone on screen yelling “I am mad at you! You killed my father! But I need your help!” or “I feel X because of Y, so you should Z” in the dumbest way possible can still have an impact on me. If I give in to the scenario, I guess part of me gives up an aspect of emotional control or something. It’s passive engagement with archetypes and familiar emotional cues. I’m willing to participate in passive engagement, but I greatly prefer the idea that entertainment may reflect the poetry and ambiguity of life.”

It’s a pretty neat mindset, and kind of addresses the experimental nature of season six, and the anxieties that went along with its production. During this season, Adventure Time has churned out some of the most different and unique eleven minute stories that television has ever seen, but again, as Moynihan touched on in his post, it’s hard to say that this is actually what people want to see. In fact, it isn’t! So many people left the AT bandwagon for Steven Universe at this point in time, and not to say that this is a bad thing, but SU is much, much more open about the issues each character is facing and how it affects themselves, while Adventure Time, or at least Moynihan, was trying to get away from that method of writing all together. Thus, The Mountain aims at tackling the complexities of both Finn and Lemongrab’s own insecurities, without making anything apparent. While it’s chock full of Moynihanisms, it’s also the storyboarding debut of Sam Alden, who is one of my favorite storyboard artists and writers on the show.

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The opening provides some nice insight into what Castle Lemongrab has been up to recently, and it seems like all of the Lemon People are being treated relatively well. Granted, Lemongrab still receives the “royal treatment” and keeps everyone on a strict schedule, though nobody in the kingdom seems opposed to it, as they seem to be at utter peace. That is, except for Lemongrab of course, whose failure to be content in his own skin is represented by the crack in the mural on his ceiling. We saw those who struggle with their own disappointing lives back in Astral Plane, but here, Lemongrab is outright refusing his own being. It’s an existential crisis that has him searching for more than just self-satisfaction, but a search for something deeper and greater for his own being.

On the other side of things, Finn and Jake enjoy yet another campfire bonding session together, as they prepare to watch the “Dap of the Heavens,” which just feels like Adventure Time in its most classic form. Those fun times end when Finn discovers Flame Princess and Cinnamon Bun working out nearby, which once more reinforces that Finn isn’t really over her entirely. I absolutely love the show’s commitment to Finn’s inability to completely move on from his ex-girlfriend. A lot of break-ups in television are glanced over after the course of a couple of episodes, but here, even an entire season later, Finn is still struggling. It’s painted refreshingly in a different way here, however, as Finn seems more anxious than anything. After a period of growth, Finn likely realizes just how embarrassing his actions were towards FP in the past, and is haunted by his own mistakes. This is why I really like his statement of, “I need to distract myself with work.” After a period of depression, Finn realizes that he can’t accomplish anything by merely allowing himself to feel bad, and that he must shift his focus onto something more productive. It’s really sweet to see how proactive he’s become.

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Though not above all issues, it seems, as the guardian of the Mountain of Matthew acknowledges that Finn is filled with “way cray beeswax.” This likely is addressing the onset of problems that Finn began to experience following his break-up with Flame Princess, and how all of those negative, raw feelings are being brought back at the sight of her.

The inside of the Mountain of Matthew is pretty nicely designed, though nothing I would call especially remarkable. I actually felt its interior was a bit too reminiscent of the tree domain in Little Brother, though they aren’t entirely identical. It’s here where Lemongrab experiences the door trial which propels him forward. Since he and Finn both share a similar experience, I’ll quickly jot down what I think each door represents and then elaborate on it:

  1. Desire.
  2. Fear.
  3. Empathy.

Through the first gateway, Lemongrab sees PB with a catcher’s mitt, and asks Lemongrab to play with her. The use of a catcher’s mitt to represent Lemongrab’s loneliness is first utilized in You Made and is referenced again at the beginning of the episode. What Lemongrab wants most of all is to bond with his mother unconditionally in the strongest way possible, which is, in his lemon-y mind, playing a game of catch. The second door features Lemonhope in a successful place as the ruler of Castle Lemongrab, which shows Lemongrab’s absolute inadequate feelings towards his own status. Aside from having a relationship with Princess Bubblegum, Lemongrab has always wanted to feel successful in his own skin, and successful as a ruler of his own kingdom. Watching someone who strayed away from his sour ways be able to actually run the earldom better than his own self is deeply stressful for Lemongrab, and interferes with his own view of his place in the universe. The empathy card with the last one is definitely the most questionable, but Lemongrab’s caring feelings for his china doll, and the possible remaining feelings he may share for his brother, propel him to act unselfishly and do something for the greater good, which allows him to move forward.

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As for Finn’s experience with the doors, things go quite comparably. Through the first door, Finn has the opportunity to take Cinnamon Bun’s place, both physically and metaphorically, to “be with” Flame Princess. The second door has Jake and BMO about to feast on Finn cakes, without the company of Finn, which could simply represent Finn’s simplistic desire to possess his special cupcakes, or it could picture Finn feeling like he is ultimately left out of something. Finn can be a bit clingy and possessive, so it would make sense that his fear is something that reflects his underlying need of support and love. The last door doesn’t show much, aside from a giant butterfly (Finn’s spirit animal), though the screams of Lemongrab can be heard in the background. Finn, like Lemongrab, chooses the path to empathy, rather than something that will directly benefit himself.

During a retrospective trial where both Finn and Lemongrab are met with massive versions of themselves, things start to get really trippy. Lemongrab’s experience while walking on his own body has him come to terms with the fact that he is coated in grease, and that to be a lemon is inherently to be “greasy.” Lemongrab was referred to as “Lemongrease” by the Pup Gang in You Made Me, though he strictly denied being such an entity. Here, after spending time on his own body, Lemongrab finally realizes that he is “grease.” Whether this means he’s a buzzkill, a dickhead, or a real out loud flim flammer, Lemongrab verbally acknowledges that he himself is a troubled being, though he also rejects this aspect of his life. As he chooses to progress forward to meet Matthew, Lemongrab bids farewell to his current self, in the hopes that he’ll find serenity and peace once he leaves behind all of his flaws and imperfections.

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While Finn’s experience through this portal isn’t nearly as reflective, there are some cool thing to point out. Finn continuously runs on his arm, which is missing in the vision. I believe this is in reference to the reinforced message that, even though a part of Finn’s self returned when his arm did, he still is not fully “whole.” This is shown in Is That You? with Finn’s thorn, and is displayed here as a means of showing that, while Finn’s arm is back, it isn’t fully there. Finn’s childlike happiness has returned to him, but it will never be the way it used to be entirely.

All of this boils down to the climax, with Finn and Lemongrab meeting up with Matthew. It’s both the coolest part of the episode, and the most confusing. But I’ve pieced it together as much as one can, and after years of reading what others have said, and as well as what I myself interpreted, it seems more apparent. Matthew states:

“The meat-bodies who have journeyed to this mountain have distilled themselves to their original source materials, and now exist in oneness.”

Matthew is essentially a cult leader or a false prophet of some sort, offering peace and restoration when the second end of the world comes, and for anyone who can no longer find peace and meaning in their own lives. Essentially, Matthew boils people down into being thoughtless, desireless beings who merely follow in the path of one ultimate sense of power that gives them meaning. It is cool how Matthew isn’t necessarily presented as a villain; like everything else in this episode, his state of being is ambiguous. There’s nothing that suggests he’s downright malicious, though his ultimate downfall is the fact that he destroys the free will and identities of other beings, but only at the expense of their original choice to sacrifice themselves to become something greater. This is why Lemongrab came; Finn states, “I know ya got issues,” and that’s exactly what propelled Lemongrab to choose a new path of being: to surrender his worldly and inner problems, and to become part of something bigger than himself, as many do with any kind of religion. Though, Lemongrab’s ultimate ego is what leaves him unable to surrender himself to Matthew. As he pulls out the remaining Lemonjons (or lemon candies) he gathered from his dinner, he realizes that the Lemonjons, being greasy and “flawed” could break Matthew. Lemongrab exclaims, “if you are the head that floats atop the ziggurat, then the stairs that lead to you must be infinite. Infinite stairs are UNACCEPTABLE!” Lemongrab knows that, to actually be something or someone as great as Matthew, the path to become undoubtedly perfect offers an impossible destination. Lemongrab came to the Mountain of Matthew to find peace in his state of being, but as it has been enforced time and time again, in Lemongrab’s mind it’s “his way or the highway.” Lemongrab fails to understand why he should give himself up to be like everyone else, because even though he isn’t fully happy with his life, he knows that he doesn’t want to lose his lemon-y essence in the end. The imperfect nature and utter “grease” of the Lemonjons causes Matthew “perfect” nature to erupt, and to show the true face of his followers, who are all identical and unremarkable, showing that his followers truly did sacrifice every sense of their being. It’s complicated to know if what Lemongrab did was right; these people are clearly upset with his actions, and while I don’t think the nature of Matthew was truly authentic, some people would much rather be apart of something that helps them feel more special and unique, even if it does stifle their own individuality and characteristics.

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But, the important part story-wise is that Lemongrab did successfully achieve solace through his experience in the cave. As he returns home, he spits the remaining gunk of the Lemonjon he was chewing into the cracked mural, and utters, “yo, yo, it’s grease!” It shows that even grease, something that Lemongrab once revolted against, could be something that’s filling and purposeful. Lemongrab is “grease,” but his overall acceptance of himself and his way of life is exactly what he needed to feel more comfortable in his own skin. Lemongrab does as he will, and his acceptance of how he does things, and the reassurance that they do embody something meaningful, gives him a reason to chill out and let things be.

Woof. This one is a doozy, y’all. And honestly, it’s hard to put into words exactly how I feel about it. It’s certainly interesting, and there’s no denying that. The themes and metaphors it presents are often difficult to read into, but provide this episode with a ton to work with when it comes to those deeper, analytical expeditions, as this review was. So it’s definitely intriguing, but does it work on a surface level? Well… I think it depends on the person. This is one that took several viewings for me to get fully invested in; there’s so much going on that it takes a lot of reading into to fully understand what’s going on in the story, which can certainly be frustrating. There’s other things holding it up: the environment, atmosphere, and trippy visuals are certainly a treat. Some of the trials that Finn and Lemongrab go through aren’t entirely difficult to understand, and Lemongrab himself is, as always, hilarious. My favorite bit is the running gag in which he simply utters “bye” before abruptly doing something extreme. Also, the scene where he kills the guardian, as Finn responds, “dude, I was gonna ask him to move,” had me in stitches. Granted, I still think the ability to get behind the actual themes and story of the episode is a big aspect, and I can totally understand if people weren’t able to enjoy this one as it is. It almost leaves too much up to the viewer where it feels like you HAVE to look deeper in order to have a pleasurable experience with it. But, as for myself, I do quite enjoy it, though that’s a personal preference and I don’t know how much of a gem it is on its own and how much I could truly recommend this to someone is. It’s an acquired taste, and one I get behind, but it surely isn’t for everyone.

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Favorite line: “You will be served in a pitcher by a little child!”